Openreach has confirmed an intent to bring FTTP "full-fibre" connectivity to part of the so-called "final third" of the UK – representing rural and isolated areas typically underserved by network providers.
The pipe laying arm of BT has highlighted 251 locations that will receive fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) upgrades. These include Colwyn Bay and Caerphilly in Wales, Buxton and Buckpool in England, Ballycastle in Northern Ireland, and Aviemore and Banff in Scotland.
In total, more than 3.2 million homes will be able to take advantage of Openreach's freshly laid pipes, which the firm plans to build without taxpayer subsidy and complete by 2026, the company said. Regulator Ofcom estimates that there are 9.6 million premises (consisting of residential homes and businesses) in the "final third".
Hailing the news, Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: "Fast and secure internet connections will be a vital tool to help our economy recover and we have committed £5bn to make sure the hardest-to-reach areas of the UK aren't left behind.
"Today's announcement is a significant step forward, with Openreach delivering better broadband so 3.2 million families and businesses can work and enjoy faster speeds."
Meanwhile, Openreach CEO Clive Selley talked up the firm's determination to "find inventive engineering solutions and effective partnership funding models" that'll allow it to deploy more cable without drawing from the taxpayer's trough.
"Openreach is leading the charge to help Government achieve its target of making gigabit capable networks available nationwide by 2025," said Selley. "And we hope that by publishing our own plans, we can help ensure that taxpayers only fund connections in communities that really need public support."
ThinkBroadband's Andrew Ferguson welcomed the news, saying it added much-needed clarity to Ofcom's gigabit rollout plans. When discussing the "final third", he noted that one shouldn't exclusively think of leafy Cotswold villages, but also peripheral towns like East Grinstead – which aren't exactly urban, but not quite rural either, instead fitting into a loosely defined middle ground.
He also urged residents of the listed locations to temper their expectations, saying: "Just because a place is mentioned doesn't mean it's guaranteed to get service."
He added: "If you're more than two miles away, I wouldn't bet on it. If you're within a five-minute walk, there's a very good probability."
Analyst Paolo Pescatore described Openreach's deployment plans as "great news for UK plc", commenting: "Having a full-fibre gigabit-ready nation is paramount for the economy and bedrock for future innovation. Rural communities have been denied proper internet connectivity for years. These moves and other initiatives are long overdue given the growing importance of connectivity. More so given the recent developments to work, teaching the kids and entertaining the entire household at home." ®